The Historic Vefa Bozacısı Cafe
/ By Josh
Cost: 3TL per cup
Great for: Traditional Drink, Turkish History, Atatürk
If you’re at all interested in trying some very local drinks (and you should be) then Vefa Bozacısı is a one-of-a-kind opportunity! Vefa Bozacısı is a small cafe that has been operating in this location since 1876, serving boza in the winter and şıra in the summer. The fact that the stone floor is completely worn down from the door to the counter is testament to how popular this place is. While you can buy Vefa Bozacısı products from many markets around the country and taste it at home, this old cafe is where you need to go if you want to experience boza and şıra amidst the quaintness and nostalgia.
Vefa Bozacısı produces their boza in marble jars rather than wooden barrels and the result is a longer lasting and better tasting product that made them popular with sultans, the rich, and even Atatürk. You can see Atatürk’s special mug up on the wall today.
Boza is what Vefa Bozacısı is famous for. It’s an odd drink, a bit like apple sauce in taste and consistency, and is served cold with cinnamon and dry roasted chick peas. If you want to have the full experience, you’ll need to go across the street from the shop and buy the roasted chick peas (leblebi) from there.
Boza is made from fermented wheat or millet and boza type drinks have been made in the region for over six thousand years! While the modern version is basically alcohol free at various points in history it was more like a beer and at times even laced with opium.
There’s many claims about what boza is good for including respiratory issues, gastro-intestinal sensitivities, and to top it off some say it helps increase breast size. Who knows?
If you’re lucky you may hear a man wandering the streets of some old neighbourhoods at night yelling “bozaaaaaa!” He’s not looking for his dog or lost wife as some foreigners have been tricked into thinking, but he’s actually a wandering boza seller. If you want to be really authentic buy some from a guy like this!
Despite being a boza company, the Vefa Bozacısı in Vefa also serves şıra, a slightly fermented, non-alcoholic grape drink, in the summer months, as well as their own ice creams.
Another product that Vefa Bozacısı is famous for is their traditional sirke, or vinegar. Don’t drink them in the cafe though. No one does that.
If you’re looking for something to do other than mosques, churches, and museums, then Vefa Bozacısı is a great way to change it up and taste something traditional!
How To Get There
Vefa Bozacısı gets its name from the Vefa neighborhood that it has been in for nearly 150 years. Vefa is just behind Şehzade Mosque, on Vefa Caddesi (street), about 500 metres from the Vezniciler metro station.
If you go by bus rather than metro, Şehzadebaşı is the closest bus stop.
Keeping to the theme of nostalgic drink shops, there is a small shop selling old style sodas across the street from the Vefa Bozacısı.
And if you’re interested in any other odd foods and drinks, then check out our list here!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.